What tire pressure are you running? I missed hearing that question asked over and over and over.....It must be the start of cyclocross season in the PNW. You might be asking why I'm combining the first four races in one blog write up?? Well, it's because they all sucked and I figured I rather write one sucky report than four individual sucky reports.
MFG#1 - Kick off Cross
A few of us decided to skip the crit at nationals and drove home in time to race the first MFG event of the year. This would be my first CX race as a 1/2. I was really tired from racing in Bend but was excited to test my skills in a stacked field. I knew I was going to have to start in the back row but I didn't really care. The gun went of and things started off bad and then went south from there. I had trouble clipping in and ended up entering the course in about 10th place. During the first part of the course I was able to move up and by the time we reached the only single track section on the course I was sitting around 5th wheel. We took a sharp right turn, entered the woods and crossed the first of two wooden foot bridges. So far, things looked good. The course turned downhill before we crossed a 2nd, short, wooden bridge. Right after crossing this bridge the trail goes uphill and as a result we were really stacked up. Everyone was going slow over the bridge and we were literally tire to tire with each other. The guy directly in front of me lost it his balance and went down right in the middle of the bridge. There was no place for me to go. Somehow I was able to slide to the far right edge of the bridge and thought I might make it by.....NOT!
My rear wheel caught the lip of the bridge and down I went, hitting the ground four feet below the bridge. As I was falling all I could think about was how bad I was going to get hurt. There were a lot of rocks and tree roots down there to cushion the blow. After the initial shock of I climbed my way out and realized I was OK (except for a lot of cuts and bruises) and tried to get back on the course. Everyone was still stacked up behind me and there was no way for me to get back in. I had to wait for a gap. It seemed to take forever but I finally was able to hoist my bike on my shoulder and run up the hill. At the top I set my bike down and quickly noticed something was wrong. I looked down and apparently while I was teetering on the edge of the bridge the lip ripped my tubie completely off the bike. Luckily I was not far from the pits. I made the short run to the pits, threw my bike down and grabbed my backup bike.......wrong!!! I had accidentally grabbed the wrong bike. It was the exact same bike as mine but with different pedals. I had just left the pits, maybe ten meters out when I realized the issue. I turned around, entered the pits, grabbed my bike and set out. As soon as I remounted I realized that according to cx rules I should have had to run the the course to get back to the pits. Shit!.. Even though I had lost a lot of time the rest of the race went well...except for getting relegated for taking a shortcut to the pits.....It was only a 10meter mistake but it was my own fault and I knew it. Not a great way to start the MFG season...
SCX#1 - Fort Steilacoom
I love this venue. I've always done well there. It's a great course with a fair amount of climbing. I was ready to shake off last week's debacle and move on. Once again, I knew I was going to be starting in the back row but with the long, paved start I also new I could sprint my way to the front. The gun went off and that is exactly what I did. I entered the course sitting 4th. We wound our way through the first wide, fast, sweeping turns on the grass infield and everyone started to settle in for the 60 minute suffer fest. We reached maybe the 5th or 6th turn and I guess the person right behind me decided he wasn't happy where he was and took an aggressive line to get past me. He came into my rear wheel hard and took me out. I had only lost a few spots so I wasn't too worried. We were only two minutes into a 60 minute race so I had plenty of time make up any lost ground. I quickly jumped up (while yelling a few choice words) and remounted my bike. I started pedaling and...wait for it....NOTHING.
I looked down and noticed the collision had broke my derailleur hanger and my derailleur was banging off my spokes. I dismounted and realized that the pits a LONG way from where I stood. I was done. By the time I reached the pits I'd be so far off the back it would be a joke. I pushed my broken bike off the course. I managed a whole 2 minutes and 50 seconds of racing. I pushed my bike past the team area and was at least happy to get a beer handout from Tony (Thanks for that). I sat by the side of the course and instantly turned from racer to heckler.
When I got home I put a new hanger on the bike and was happy to find out that there was no damage to the rear derailleur but.....The collision had put my wheel way out of true. No big deal, I thew it in the stand and....My Easton deep dish wheels had always been bomb proof and I'd never had to true them up. The nipples on this are not exposed and the only way to true them was to rip the tubies off. I'd just glued them on for a 2nd time after the last race. I decided to make the trip to HSP and let the pros do it this time. Not bad on the damage total....$90
MFG#2 - Lake Sammamish
So far I haven't finished a race on the bike I started on. There was going to be enough beach running on the course that I really didn't feel the need to have do extra running to the pits. It going to be another stellar day in Seattle. I headed down early to get a good spot for the RV and to get some laps on the course. It was bone dry and fast......except for the "Chariots of Fire" run on the beach. I felt good warming up and was ready to go.
The start went really well and I was able to enter the course sitting about 4th or 5th wheel. All was good and I just focused on staying with the leaders. By the time we made it to the sand I was still right near the front. I felt I was running OK but did lose a little time by the time I remounted. I was able to hook back on by the time we reached the barriers. The next two laps were pretty much the same and so far it was the furthest I'd made it on my main bike.
We started lap 4 and I was starting to get in a nice groove but this time after my slog through the sand something didn't feel right. I'd ruptured my achilles a few years ago and I felt a "twinge" about half way through. Once back on the bike everything felt fine. When I reached the sand during the next lap pain shot from my ankle area and up through my calf. Panic set in. There was no way I was going to go through the hell of a ruptured achilles again so my run (job) through sand slowed to a walk. One by one guys ran by me in the sand and by the time I exited I'd dropped to about 10th place. Back on the bike things felt fine again and I worked my ass off to try to make up ground. I passed a couple of guys but I had to pretty much walk the sand on the next lap and that's when I knew I would not see the leaders when the race was over. I kept pushing and in the end I finished 14th. I could barely walk but was actually pretty happy that I finished on the same bike I'd started on. It turned out that I'd just strained the tendon and the pain went away by the following Thursday.
SCX#2 - Arlington
I was really done with my "bad luck" racing. Last year I finished 2nd in the State Championship race here as a Cat 3 so I was trying to stay positive. Once again we had a beautiful day for racing. We would be dealing with dust and not mud for the 4th straight week. I was pain free and the bike was race ready. I arrived early and took a few warm up laps on the course. It was basically the same setup as last year. There were long, fast, flat sections, a technical section through the trees, wide sweeping turns in the grass, two barrier sections and yes, more f'ing sand. During my warm up I found the sand was easily ride able and that didn't sit will with promoters. Right before our race they put in a hairpin corner that forced us to at least dismount once but it wasn't bad.
I got an OK start but by the time we reached the infield I was sitting about 10th wheel. No problem, I figured I could make up time on the fast, flat sections. I was able to pass several guys and then settled in before the first run through the sand. We ended up getting bunched up before we reached the sand and pretty much everyone had to run it. After remounting I got ready for the wide corners in the grass. They ended up being a little slicker than they appeared and I saw guys in front of me slide a bit. All of a sudden someone went down in front of me....again....and I had no where to go. I lost my front wheel trying to avoid him and went down as well. We both jumped up and remounted with out loosing any ground so it wasn't bad as far a crashes go.......except........I quickly noticed that my right shifter was basically torn off the bike. I didn't panic because I didn't need to shift into my small ring at all so I just ignored it. After a few more turns I did realize that I wasn't able to get a good grip on the bars without the shifter and almost went down again. No worries, I was just going to keep going and grab my backup bike when I made it to the pits. I flew by the start/finish and was still in striking distance with the leaders. I figured I needed to make up a little ground so that I wouldn't loose time in the pits. When I jumped out of the saddle something happened and my chain tried to drop to the small ring (maybe I should just start running a single up front) and it got caught in between the rings. I couldn't get it to jump to either of the rings and pretty soon I found myself in the familiar position of running the f'ing course to the pits. It was further than I though and pretty soon I was passed by everyone in my field. I was jogging in last place. I slowed down and started to exit the course. I was only 10 minutes into a 60 minute race and by the time I reached the pits I'd be so far off the back that there wouldn't be much point. For some reason I kept running and finally made it to the pits. I grabbed my backup and took off. Now it was just going to be all about practicing my technique and getting a good workout. I went as hard as I could and pretty soon started to catch a few guys. I was feeling pretty good and was now pissed that this was really for nothing. I kept it going, listening to all the hecklers that were giving me shit. The rest of my race was error free and when things were all said and done I'd finished 19th. I was pissed that I was still having all this bad luck. So far I've broken bike parts in three of my four starts. I know that's part of cross but I don't think I had a single mechanical last year. To make things worse I finally had a chance to examine the damage. I figured that the bracket that holds the shifter to the bars broke but nooooooooo. It was completely destroyed. I had to head to the shop the following day to get a replacement.....NOT cheap. Anyway, congrats to Jeff B. for a great, well deserved win. Next week....hopefully.